“POP-COWHN!” -AVERY RIO

A few weeks ago, I told Lynnette that my favorite of Avery’s words is “popcorn”. For some reason, it’s the only word Avery says with a mix of unusual intensity and a strange accent. She pronounces it “pop-cowhn”, with the emphasis on the second syllable, eshewing the letter R for the sound I’ve tried very hard to duplicate in print here. I bring this up because apparently, “popcorn” isn’t just one of Avery’s favorite words, it’s one of her favorite things, full stop.

IMG_7790Tanya, Matty, and Declan gave Avery this stuffed animal for her birthday. Its most important quality, of course, is that it is pink. Avery took to it immediately, toting it around the house, holding it up in front of her, then cuddling with it on the couch. “Monkey” Avery said, we think because it’s on the bed, and the bed is where monkeys jump. “Piggy,” Avery said, we think because it’s pink. “Unicorn!” Lynnette corrected her. “Popcowhn!” Avery replied, we think because Avery doesn’t know what a unicorn is but certainly knows what popcorn is. So I can’t speak for anyone else, but that pink unicorn’s name is Popcowhn from now on.

IMG_7857At Aulani, we bought a bucket of popcorn and Cole had first crack at it because Madison ditched us and Avery was napping. When Avery woke up, she saw the bounty and excitedly shouted “POP-COWHN!” and began to furiously make up for lost time. Giving her the bucket was how we made it out of the hotel without incident. I carried the pool bag and dragged the luggage. Madison held some incidentals. Lynnette held Avery in one arm and the bucket in the other, making sure to keep the bucket within reach of the popcorn monger. When Cole passed out on the drive home, Avery took sole possession of the bucket. Somewhere near Waikele, I shut off the radio so we could hear the sounds of munching coming from the back seat.

20181113_072752Yesterday was Avery’s first day of pre-school and I am told it went off without a hitch. “No one cried” was the official review from Lynnette, who included herself in the summary. The notes from the teacher said that Avery participated in almost everything (but not music class, curiously) and ate well. So well, in fact, that she ate her teacher’s food. I guess Avery noticed that the teacher had a couple of things of popcorn at her desk, so Avery said “Pop-cowhn, please”. As the story goes, Avery was given the cheese-flavored popcorn first. She sniffed it and put it on the side. Next, she was given the caramel-flavored corn, which she ate until there wasn’t any left.

Avery is amazing to me in part because there are so many things about her that I don’t understand. She knows colors. She plays with these four plastic bowls because they’re green, orange, purple, and pink. She likes to call each color out. I don’t know how she got there. She screams “DEDDIE!” at me when she’s upset with me. She also screams “DEDDIE!” at Lynnette when she’s upset with Lynnette. She has to be in a mood to let me hold her. But she also does this thing when I’m sitting. If she can get to my eye level, she’ll stand right in front of me and look me dead in the eyes. It feels like she’s looking for something. I don’t know what. So I smile, and she smiles back. Sometimes, there’s a squeal of laughter. Sometimes she grins and runs off. I like to think whatever it is she’s looking for in me, she can see it, find it, get to it – even if I can’t.

Advertisements

The 2018 November Birthdays Staycation Extravaganza

Some notes and stories from our stay at Aulani to celebrate Lynnette’s and the twins’ birthdays.

IMG_9650We got a room on the 12th floor and as you can imagine, it was the most amazing thing in the entire galaxy to Cole and Avery. Cole, of course, checked it out cautiously because he’s a chicken then decided he had seen enough. Avery on the other hand tried to walk through the railing. Madison wanted to eat dinner on the lanai Sunday night but quit after 10 minutes because Avery made her nervous. This morning at breakfast, we gave it another try and Avery stuck her arm through the railing WHILE HOLDING ONE OF HER HONEYS. I didn’t see it but I heard Madison scream “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” like she was being murdered or in a soap opera, so I turned to look. Madison was right to scream. If the honey fell, Avery would have 100% tried to jump after it, then had a cataclysmic meltdown when we wouldn’t let her.

Last night was the first time all 5 of us have slept in a room together and it was not fun. “Why do we have to go to bed at 8:45?” Mad asked. “Because that’s when the twins sleep,” I said. Also, Madison probably didn’t care for the sleeping arrangements which saw Lynnette and the twins on one bed and Mad and I in the other. But I got about 9 hour of sleep that was interrupted multiple times by the kids crying and one time by Lynnette snoring. I woke up at some point in the night and heard something like a moped engine affixed to a chainsaw. I don’t sound like that, I thought I thought to myself in the darkness. I’ve been told my snore is a deep nasally inhale followed by a dry Darth Vader exhale if he had farted in his own suit and could somehow smell it so he was gasping for air. So yeah, I held my breath and covered my mouth to see if I was making the moped/chainsaw noise. I wasn’t. Oh, thank God. I went back to sleep.

DCIM101GOPROG0579341.Honestly, I thought my high school and college years taught  me what unrequited love is. Turns out I just took the beginner’s courses.

DCIM101GOPROG0639515.The Aulani’s food offerings hit the spot with the twins. They loved the fruit bowls, the apple fries, the french fries, and just today they along with Madison plowed through 2 bags of popcorn. “I want candy,” Cole said this afternoon. “Where are we supposed to find candy?” I asked him. “There’s candy at the Ulu Cafe!” Madison shouted. “Da Uwu Cafe!” Cole said. Thanks, Mad. So the three of  us headed out for a popcorn refill, a Coke refill, and some exorbitantly priced sour watermelon gummies.

If you’re ever at Aulani and feel like you might want a shave ice in 10 minutes, you should have started standing in line 5 minutes ago.

DCIM102GOPROG0759895.Madison was pretty great help with Cole, but other than that, she disappeared from Lynnette and me for long stretches of time. She’s reached that age where I don’t worry about her as much as I used to – I guess it has something to do with the setting and also the fact that I have two other children who are devil’s spawn – so I don’t mind that she’s off on her own. She went to one of the tween activities last night and she even answered her cell phone when I called her. She deserved her freedom this weekend as much as Lynnette deserved the Bruno Mars concert on Saturday and as much as I deserve a foot massage because my feet are torn up from two days without my Skechers or any footwear for that matter.

DCIM104GOPROG1201195.Cole and I found the beach for a few minutes today. “I need a bucket” he said. “We didn’t bring one, buddy,” I said. He motioned to a set laying on the sand but he knew it wasn’t his. “That’s not ours, Cub,” I said. He plopped down to his knees and started digging in the sand. I guess it was more what he’s used to.

Overall, he’s a good sport when it comes to stuff like this, but once a day he’s guaranteed to turn into a fussy malcontent for absolutely no reason at all. Today he said he didn’t want fruit or fries or milk or juice or water or anything for lunch. When I told him that I would get popcorn he said ‘Don’t get popcorn!” He basically takes the position opposed to whatever Lynnette and I are trying to do. It’s so strange. Madison never got as intense about this stuff as Cole does. But when he’s crying, Avery starts crying because no entity on the planet is allowed to hold a greater percentage of Lynnette’s attention than her. You remember that scene in Hamlet when Hamlet sees Laertes jump into Ophelia’s grave as a show of grief and Hamlet basically says “Oh, hell naw, ain’t nobody gonna out-mourn me!” then jumps into the grave with Laertes, causing a fight literally over Ophelia’s dead body? You don’t? Shoot. Well, the twins’ screaming matches are pretty ridiculous is what I’m trying to say.

DCIM104GOPROG1351673.Avery spent the better part of the 2 days clinging tenaciously to Lynnette, which, I mean, I would like to if I could. But every once in a while, she’d get up and do her own thing. One of the things she loves about pools is finding the streams of water from pumps. Today in the lazy river she found just such a pump. “Circle!” she shouted. She saw the white disc through the water. When she leaned down to touch it, I guess the jet stream hit her finger because she jerked back and started squealing with delight. Avery often finds things to amuse herself but rarely do they come without danger or irritation, so I set up to take as many pictures of her playing this game as possible. “Where’s the circle?” I asked. She looked down into the water, pointed, then leaned. She popped up and laughed. I have a bunch just like this and they are among my favorite pictures from this weekend.

Please keep the Gravy Boat in your thoughts this week. She starts DOE pre-school tomorrow and we have no idea how it’s going to go! Still, we got her a pink backpack and as many pink school supplies as possible. Good luck tomorrow, Avery!

DCIM104GOPROG1231304.Aside from the ones with Disney characters, this is the only family picture I have from this weekend. It’s just as well. It’s a perfect symbol for how the weekend went: the twins clinging to Lynnette, me close by but removed, and Madison kind of, sort of around but ready to jet at any second.

On the way home, Lynnette expressed the hope that we’d be able to go back next year. “Sure,” I said but I was already thinking about something else. What will this picture look like in a year? Time’s moving too fast, even when – especially when – you’re on a lazy river.

Halloween 2018: “I’m Scared”

IMG_7467Avery is just Avery; she liked getting dressed up and actually loved the Minnie Mouse ears Lynnette risked putting on her head. Whether she understands the process of Halloween is still up for debate. Cole, however, totally gets Halloween. I knows that all he has to do is say those three magic words and people will generously give him handfuls of candy. As we prepped the twins’ costumes, Cole kept shouting “I want to go out!” even though the sun was still visible above the mountains in the west. “Hold on, buddy,” I said. “It has to get a little darker first.” “No, no dark! Outside now!” he replied. Patience is not one of his virtues, obviously.

IMG_7475Cubby Candy is the name of a character in the Chuck Klosterman novel Downtown Owl. This character bears no resemblance to my son, I guess I just kind of liked the name and started calling Cole Cubby Candy when he was an infant. Over time – like all nicknames – it was shortened to “Candy” and I sometimes refer to him as “Candy Boy” and I regret this turn of events because it seems like I have unwittingly and preemptively given him a nickname that is literally the basis of his entire existence.

Like Lynnette and Madison, Cole is a snacker. In the last year, he’s taken a liking to sweets. I still remember the fire in his eyes when I gave him his first lollypop after a haircut. I imagine it was the same mix of red, orange, and yellow that appeared in the eyes of the first human who thought it would be a good idea to cook things in a vat of boiling oil. Well, Cubby Candy rode in the wagon for the first 5 minutes of our walk until he watched Madison get candy for simply uttering those three magic words. “I wanna say ‘trick or treat”!” he shouted at me, trying to hurl himself from the wagon. He confidently followed Madison from door to door until we hit the homes with decorations. “I’m scared,” he said. “What? That’s – that’s Count Mickula!” I said. “I’m scared,” he repeated. “But…you’ve been watching the same episode of Micky Mouse Clubhouse with Count Mickula every day for the last two weeks!” I said incredulously. “Don’t you want to take a picture with him?” I asked. “No,” he said, running across the driveway. Unbelievable.

IMG_7480I don’t have to tell you that Madison’s a seasoned veteran when it comes to trick-or-treating. She’s so good now that she decided to leave her wand at home because she knew it would mean one less hand for candy grabbing. She doesn’t show critical thinking often, but when she does, man it warms the hell out of my heart.

She was also eager to hold Cole’s hand during the entire process (until he retired for the night to have a lollypop). She moved slowly, encouraged him, and helped dump his candy into the wagon that I pulled around Mililani Mauka. Madison scored just under a metric ton of candy, and of one thing I am certain: this weekend we will end up in some store like Target or Walmart and Madison will say, “Oh, can I get this?” and she will be holding some kind of snack. “But you just scored a metric ton of candy on Halloween!” I will say. “Yeah, but I didn’t get this,” she will say. I will shake my head. She will say “C’mon!” So basically, what I am trying to tell you is that we are well on our way to raising a stellar member of the next generation of Fighting Eel enthusiasts.

IMG_7481Speaking of Fighting Eel enthusiasts, Lynnette’s “costume” was a this Fighting Eel number which Lynnette said was a “spider web”. She affixed a plastic toy spider above her heart and did the French chef finger-kiss. OK. I mean I would have made fun of it but I wore a gray shirt, navy blue shorts, and Dallas Cowboys socks so I went as a clown. It would have been like the pot calling the kettle Dak.

Anyway, Lynnette and Avery paired up in the buddy system like always and I think Lynnette was just thrilled she didn’t have tote Avery around in the Ergo. Avery was pretty good, all things considered, except for when she became enthralled by decorations or lights. At these homes, Avery would throw her body at the driveway, trying to get us to stay so she could further examine the eye-catching structures. With Avery, sometimes you just have to think like her in order to win her to your side, so Lynnette told me to dump a box of nerds into one of the buckets and give it to Avery. I did and Avery calmed down. Eventually, a thing of pretzels got thrown in there too, like the very kind of strange brew in a cauldron you’d expect on Halloween.

IMG_7449

Josh Brolin as Cable as Al Higa

It probably has something to do with getting older. I can no longer make it through complete viewings of some of my favorite movies from my youth, specifically the kind in which stupidity is a foundational building block. I loved Hot ShotsThere’s Something About Mary, and all the Kevin Smith movies but now I can’t watch them in their entirety, even if I feel like that’s exactly what I want to do. Additionally, I can’t bring myself to watch new movies that are built on the same aesthetic. I count the Deadpool movies in this category.

I have watched both, much later than their release date in theaters, and at no point did I feel any urgency at all. I ended up watching both because they were just kind of there and I had some free time. In fact, I am 100% certain I would never have started either of these movies if they weren’t based on comic book characters I loved. So two days ago I gave Deadpool 2 a shot. It’s meh. But I found myself giggling and snickering throughout the movie because of something I could have never predicted based on my understanding of the comics and the trailer: Josh Brolin decided to play Cable as my dad, Alden Higa.

lead_720_405

He has much, much better hair than my dad, but that’s about it.

Cable is a time-jumping mutant with a robotic arm, fake glowing eye, and just an incredible arsenal of advanced weaponry. He was created in the midst of the early ’90s, a hybrid of successful pop culture archetypes like the Terminator, Robo-Cop, Wolverine, and the gruff, disgruntled coach of the Bad News Bears.

In Deadpool 2, Cable is all of those things but more importantly, he serves as the straight man in the world of a story that is non-sensical in that it somehow suggests Cable’s mission has significant stakes for the future but is also predicated on meta-storytelling that exists exclusively to poke fun at itself with a cattle prod or some other similarly shaped toy. Brolin’s Cable is hyper-serious and his one-liners are delivered in a deadpan style that oozes disdain and contempt for the stupidity he finds himself surrounded with. And it is this single aspect of Brolin’s performance that had me thinking of my dad the entire time.


One of the biggest on-going mysteries of my life is how I ended up being a clown. My dad is not a clown and my mom – as a parent – is the polar opposite of a clown times 15. They do not share my sense of humor. One of the most telling conversations I ever had with my father occurred when I was in my early 20s. “We probably drink the most Coca-Cola – per capita – of any family in the state, huh?” I said to my dad in the garage one day. He took a sip of his beer. “At least on this street,” he said. Did he think I was serious? Was he serious? I didn’t and don’t know. But that’s him.

So as I watched Deadpool 2 and Cable’s grunts of disapproval and smirks and sighs grew, I thought back to my father who at times appeared to barely tolerate my stupidity because he felt obligated to. All of this reminded me of one of the worst/best things that ever happened in our family. I honestly cannot remember if I have told this story in this space, but I’m going to tell it anyway because it is still one of my favorite memories.


It was my senior year of high school. Matty and I were both on the varsity baseball team at Damien. We had practice in the middle of the week at Lanakila Field on School Street. Matty was throwing batting practice and I was shagging balls in the field. I had probably already snuck onto the infield dirt because, um, I don’t do fly balls. So anyway, Matty ran out of balls in the bucket. We threw a bunch of them in to the bucketman at second base and he ran them to the pitcher’s mound. I didn’t see what happened next, I only saw the aftermath. Apparently one of our teammates tried to throw Matty a baseball from behind home plate. Matty was standing behind the L-screen. When he tried to lift his glove to catch the ball, one of the lace knots on his glove got caught on the netting of the L-screen. So Matty caught the ball with his mouth. There was blood everywhere.

“Are you 18?” my coached asked me.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Do you have your insurance information?” he continued.
“No,” I said.
“Do you know where your dad is?” he followed.
Matty and I looked at each other.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Go get your dad to take him to the hospital,” Coach said. So that’s what I did.

We knew exactly where dad was. He was at Halawa District Park coaching his Little League team. We also knew that showing up at Halawa District Park in the middle of his game to tell him that he had to take Matty to the hospital for stitches would be akin to Matty and me simultaneously turning those keys that arm then nuke, then pressing the button that launches it. The whole thing played out perfectly.

As we arrived at the top of Red Hill, the sun was on its way toward setting in the west. We could see the clashing uniforms on the players moving across the baseball field in the distance.

“Nah, no need,” Matty said, holding a cloth or bag of ice against his blood mouth. He knew.
“We kinda gotta,” I said.

I parked the car in the back parking lot – the one near the basketball courts. I got out and descended the hill toward the field. My was in the third base box and called time out before I made it to the dugout. He knew something was wrong. We should not have been there.

“You have to take Matty to the hospital,” I told him.
“What?” Coach Al shouted.
“A ball hit him in the mouth and he bled all over the place. I think he might need stitches,” I said. Matty stood atop the hill, at the edge of the parking lot, still holding that cloth or bag of ice to his mouth.
“You take him,” Coach Al shouted.
“I don’t have the insurance information,” I said.

He growled and retreated toward the dugout. He emerged from it with his fanny pack and keys.

“Go coach 3rd base,” he said to me. I don’t know if he made eye contact.
“What are the sig-” I stated.
“1 bunt, 2 hit-and-run, 3-steal,” he said as he walked past me toward Matty.

I was in practice clothes, Adidas slides, and I had no cap. I got to the dugout. My grandfather was there. I’m almost positive Mike Kim was there, too. I can hear his voice in this memory. I asked what the signals were, what the score was, and how many outs there were, then walked onto the field. We had halted the game for maybe 5 minutes already. “Is this cool?” I asked the umpire, gesturing to my attire. “He said ‘coach 3rd base’, right?” Yes. Yes, he did.

The only two things I remember from the rest of that game are that I called a sac bunt that worked and led to 2 runs and we won the game. THANK. GOD. Because if I had to go home and tell me dad I lost that game for him, I don’t know what would have happened. When I got home, and saw Matty, he had those melt-away stitches in his mouth, but a piece of it was sticking out of his lips so it looked like he was in the process of eating a chameleon. He didn’t say much. I don’t know if I ever asked him what that car ride was like. Maybe I will this weekend.


My dad never hit us. He yelled – especially when it came to baseball – but we were never physically afraid of him. We were afraid but back then, fear was the simplest term I could give to what I felt. Now I know better. Coincidentally, on that day, he was as old as I am today. I understand my father better today, and that’s why Brolin’s Cable killed me.

My dad is a simple man. He wasn’t really upset at us, he was upset that we interfered with him at the worst possible time – when he was caught up in something deeply meaningful and emotional for him. And of course, the whole story was stupid. Combine that with the fact that Matty (not me!) forced him to inconvenience two teams and their fans, it was the worst possible perfect storm. Poor timing, stupidity, and inconvenience are, in some order, my dad’s top 3 pet peeves. Every time Cable appeared on screen and other characters prevent him from completing his mission, he became frustrated. I thought of my dad. Every time Cable appeared on screen to try to have a quick and efficient conversation but was met with jokes and stupidity, I thought of my dad. Every time Cable was made to wait by other characters screwing around, the agony and annoyance on Josh Brolin’s face grew and I was in hysterics thinking about my dad.

I will always adore Josh Brolin’s Cable because I will always unabashedly love my dad and someone finally put him in a movie.

Avery Rio, Our Burgeoning Wordsmith

IMG_6855If everything goes to plan, Avery will start DOE pre-school in November, after her third birthday. This, I am certain, will bring about a whole slew of new challenges, but also wonderful stories. Over the course of these last few months, Avery’s vocabulary has exploded in exciting and hilarious ways.

She’s able to say all of our names now.

She says “Mom” or “Mem” when referring to Lynnette, and it’s almost always said with the glow of love. The only time she says it angrily is when I try to take her out of her carseat and she would rather Mem do it. “MOM!” she’ll say while swatting away my hands with her feet.

She says “Mad-uh” with a kind of exaggerated hard D at the end of the Goob’s name when they’re getting along or she wants her big sister’s attention. The most incredible version of this, however, is when she’s upset with Madison because big sister is acting on mom or dad’s orders. Madison pulls her off the tv shelf, blocks her access to dangerous items, and tries to keep Avery out of trouble. That’s when Gravy breaks out the “MAD-I-SEEEEEN!” growl that’s coupled with a cry of frustration.

She says “Co!” when referring to Cole. She often shouts his name when she’s in the tub waiting for him to show up because she knows they bathe together. It’s endearing, really, like she thinks the whole enterprise would be incomplete without him. Recently, she’s been also saying “Cubby”, which is one the boy’s nicknames.

Avery says “Deddy!” over and over when I get home because she’s legitimately excited to see me. The roles have reversed! It used to be Cole who would greet me at the top of the stairs while Avery would exploit the distraction of my arrival by trying to climb onto some high surface in the house. Now, Cole’s nowhere to be found when I get home. Sometimes I get up to the top of the stairs and I see him in the living room and he just goes right into “I do not want Daddy.” Ouch, babe. Avery also has an angry version of “Deddy! that sounds like “DEHDEEEEE!” which she uses whenever I play the role of obstacle/antagonist.


Today we were driving around Aiea and Avery knows that A-Town is Grandma and Grandpa Higa’s hood. I guess I took too long at Waimalu Shopping Center because when I pulled into a stall to go to the Face Shop, she shouted “GRANDMA!” at me, which I loosely translated to: “Fool, we don’t have time to acquire your petty skin care products! Take me to Grandma’s house now.” Avery also calls out every single playground we drive past by shouting “paygoun!” I’m just thrilled she doesn’t tantrum once she figures out we aren’t stopping.


Anyway, here’s an updated list of the things Avery says most frequently:

Coffee! (because Lynnette is morally obligated to stop for coffee every single time we leave Mililani)

Bacon! (because she loves bacon)

Stop it! (because she’s heard us tell her this so many times that she’s figured out what it means and when to use it, even though she never ever listens when we say it to her. In the past few days, she’s returned to resisting putting a shirt on. “Stop it!” she shouts as she fights one of both her parents who are just trying to get her dressed.)

Calm down! (again, Lynnette and I have uttered this phrase over and over whenever Avery and/or Cole start running and jumping all over the house. It’s chaos, sometimes. It seems like her body reacts instantaneously to any kind of sugar intake, which is not what you want.)

My personal favorites are “keez” and “hug.” As you have just learned, Avery is not opposed to cruising around the house shirtless like her father. Well, one night when I was Jabba-the-Hut-ing on the couch, Avery came up to me, placed both hands on my ample belly, then gleefully shouted “KEEZ!” and squeezed my fat with her tiny fingers. I wasn’t even mad. It was a new word! Today, she did the same, then threw her shirtless self across my body so that we were skin-to-skin. “HUG!” she yelled. I bounced my belly up and down and to the surprise of absolutely no one, she loved that.

But the family favorite is when Avery says “frog” or “fork” because she pronounces both words the same way: FUK. It is the absolute best and worst thing in the world because if it happens at home we kind of laugh, then try to redirect to a correct pronunciation.  “FUK!” Avery says while watching Little Baby Bum. This is immediately followed by Lynnette or I replying “That’s right FROG jumping off the log!” “FUK!” Avery says in the middle of a meal. This is immediately followed by Lynnette or I replying “Yes! Use your fork to eat your rice!” Lynnette and I live in constant fear of the day that she drops the frog-bomb or fork-bomb in public. I have no idea how mortified I can possibly be, but I am certain Avery will have a hand in helping me find out.

Cole Doesn’t Want Mom and Avery

“I do not want to go to sleep,” Cole said at bedtime on Sunday night. Lynnette took Avery into the twins’ room and closed the door behind her.

“Well, what do you want to do?” I asked him. He followed Madison to her room. “Madison has school tomorrow. You can’t sleep with her. Do you want to sleep with me?”

“I do not want to sleep with you,” Cole said.

“Ok. Then do you want to sleep on the couch?” I asked.

“Sleep on the couch,” Cole said.

It was 8:30. I turned on the big square fan that makes a lot of noise and pointed it straight at us as Cole and I lay perpendicular on the couch. For the first 10 minutes, I watched fishing videos. When I looked back at Cole with hopes that he’d be asleep, his eyes were the size of ping pong balls. I turned off my phone and tried to sleep. I woke up some time later, checked my phone and saw that it was 9:00. I tilted the phone’s light towards Cole’s face to find those same ping pong balls staring at me.

“I have to go to bed,” I said, popping up into a seated position. “Do you want me to take you to Mom and Avery?”

“I do not want Mom and Avery,” Cole said.

“You wanna come with me?” I asked.

“Sleep on the couch,” Cole said.

I walked into my room and fell into bed. I don’t remember falling asleep but I know that it was quick because it was only 9:15 when I heard noises in the room. I sat up and saw Cole crawling into the bed next to me.

“You want me to take you to Mom and Avery?” I said. This was the usual game. He tried to put off bed time, then would eventually make his way back to his room.

“No, sleep with you,” he said.

And with that, for the first time in half a decade, I slept in bed with one of my children. I had forgotten the special rite of parenthood that includes elbows and heels in the eye orbitals. I had forgotten the joys of waking up in the middle of the night to a face full of shi-shi diaper. I was pretty tired on Monday.


IMG_6724On Wednesday night, Cole pulled his stunt again. Lynnette and Avery retired to the twins’ room; the lights in Madison’s room were out.

“Do you want to watch Roku while I shower?” I asked Cole.

“Roku is for tomorrow morning,” he said.

“No, I know, buddy, but do you want to watch it right now? While I shower?” I said.

“Wait,” he said. He stood on the bed, turned in circles, then flopped down. “There. I turned the sun around.”

I laughed.

“So does that mean I can turn on the Roku?” I asked.

He nodded.

“What do you want to watch?” I asked.

“Halloween,” Cole said. He said it in what I can only assume was a voice which was meant to be scary. Then he made a growling/moaning noise – again, I can only assume – which was meant to be a hybrid wolf/ghost call, or perhaps the call of a ghost wolf.

I found a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Halloween episode, then took a shower. When I came back to bed, I turned the lights and tv off, then asked the only question that mattered.

“Do you want me to take you back to Mom and Avery?” I asked.

“I do not want Mom and Avery,” Cole said. He stood up, then fell backwards onto the bed. “I want to stay here.”

Five minutes or so passed before I got a text message from Lynnette. “Put up the rail or bring the boy to our room.” I would have loved to select the second option, but the boy in question had made it clear that it was off the table. I got out of bed and flipped the lights on. Cole popped up in bed. What happened next played out exactly as I knew it would. I reached under the bed and pulled out the gate for the side of the bed. The gate had become the most incredible thing Cole had ever seen in his short life.

“Get off the bed so I can put the gate up,” I said. Cole is a decent listener. In fact, of my 3 children, I would put him first, then Avery second, and Madison last. Those rankings might not seem right, but remember, Avery is just the living, breathing embodiment of chaos so if she ever listens, it’s kind of a minor miracle – like when the traffic is noticeably lighter than usual on H1 westbound in the afternoon. I mean it’s possible but so rare that you kind of start thinking “where is everybody? Is there something I’m missing?” Madison is a smart girl, but has the most selective hearing I’ve ever seen, which is really saying something because I’m married to Lynnette. ANYWAY, Cole flew off the bed because if I’m doing something he’s interested in and he thinks there’s something in it for him, then he will listen 100%.

So I get the gate halfway secured and Cole climbs up onto the bed again. “Get off so I can fix it,” I say. And he just American Ninja Warriored his way off. I got the gate up and Cole was already in position behind me. As soon as I moved, he hoisted himself up to stand on the bed frame. He looked at me.

“No,” I said.

He shuffled sideways, still clinging to the gate.

“No,” I said again.

He got off the frame. I don’t know how it’s possible that my 2-year old son has figured out how to manipulate his face so in order to manipulate my feelings but that’s what he did.

“You wanna climb the gate, huh?” I said.

Cole just stared at me.

“Alright, why not, go for it,” he ascended the bed frame with lightning speed. Perhaps he thought I might change my mind. He got to the top of the gate, kicked off it, and landed on the bed with a laugh.

When the Gate Gala was over, I turned the lights out and checked my phone. Cole watched fishing videos with me, then randomly flipped around to look behind him.

“The gate’s still there,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s gonna stay there so you don’t fall off the bed,” I said. I patted the area of the bed that in sexier times had once belonged to Lynnette. “This is where you sleep now.”

Cole rolled over to the spot, settled with his back toward me, and fell asleep. Later in the night, his diapered ass found its way back to my face. I suppose there’s a strange kind of comfort in that, for both of us. So now it’s me, Cole, and Abby in my bed. Lynnette and Gravy are in the twins’ room. Madison has the best deal, sleeping in the pink room by herself. We’ve got 3 bedrooms for 5 people and I am getting the feeling that this game of musical beds is only just beginning. I gotta be honest: I’m absolutely rapt in thinking about how it’s going to play out over the next few years.

Oh, Rio, Rio

IMG_3463Today a co-worker remarked that she enjoyed following my family’s adventures through social media. “It’s all a facade!” I said half-jokingly. “No one takes pictures of the bad times,” I continued. As far as I am concerned, both of those things are completely true.

Avery Rio’s hit a bunch of bad luck since she was 8 months old. First, she was besieged by a life-threatening illness. Around her first birthday, we noticed that she appeared developmentally delayed, particularly in her speech and behavior. As she grew, she physically outpaced her brother Cole. She’s both stronger and seems more athletic. She figured out how to climb onto the window sill of our second-story townhome without a stool or other support. I found this out one day this summer when I walked into her room and discovered her tapping against the thin window screen. She was thrilled when she saw me. It was if she was proud of what she had accomplished. I was just relieved she didn’t fall through the screen and onto the driveway below.

IMG_5884After a year of early intervention services, we took Avery to a neurologist. The doctor observed and interacted with Avery. He asked Lynnette and me a handful of pointed questions. He pored over the notes from her doctors and teachers. At the end of the session, he diagnosed her with autism. In a strange way, it brought me relief. Someone had finally given this thing, all of it, a name. I listened to the doctor and asked a few questions I believed to be practical as Avery chased a light-up ball across the room, then tried to climb on the wall-mounted computer system. I watched her giggle to herself. She shouted a few unintelligible words at Lynnette and I (she saved the raspberries for the doctor), then set about trying to conquer the examination bed like it was Half Dome.

IMG_3406Avery has a brain scan scheduled for later this month and I have no idea what we’re looking for, what we’re going to find. More fires, probably. I don’t know.

I know that she’s got all the pieces in there – she’s an amazing problem solver – but it’s like all those pieces are jumbled. About three weeks ago, she began incorporating two and three-word phrases into her vocabulary. She makes eye contact more often and holds it longer. Every time I look into her big brown eyes, I search for something that will help me understand her or – I don’t know – somehow unlock the pieces and place them in correct sequence, but I am usually met with a raspberry and spit in my eyes instead. We’ve been told her condition can improve, but there’s no timetable, only a kind of general path, and that’s the one we’re on now, I guess.

I wrote something similar last year, and I have attempted at various times this summer to write this post, but gave up each time. I have had writer’s block before, but this has been a different experience. The best way I can explain it is as a kind of ambivalence where I don’t want to write it if it isn’t honest, but whenever I get down to the raw emotions, I can’t bring myself to type the words. Avery is a bowling ball of impulses and sheer will but she’s also an unpredictable variable that exposes all my personal weakness of character that I try so diligently to paper over. She requires special attention and therefore an unyielding patience that I no can no longer summon so easily. I am a simple man with simple desires, among them peace and quiet; Avery consistently denies me both. She’s predictable in ways that are frustrating: she only wants to eat red Goldfish crackers, her milk has to come in a particular type of container, if she is told “no” she will likely have a meltdown. But she’s also unpredictable in ways that make planning impossible to the point of futility. I, Lynnette, and Lynnette’s parents took turns tailing her around the Halekulani courtyard during Mother’s Day brunch because once she had her fill of fruit, Avery set her mind to exploring the space. I’ve been forced to make adjustments to the way I work and they involve mostly late nights and early mornings when Avery is asleep. A guiding principle in my life has been to find the straightest line. Sometimes Avery lets me do that. At others, she’s anything from a metaphorical pothole to a detour to a natural disaster that precludes movement altogether.

Everything I wrote in that last paragraph is the unfiltered truth and as frustrating as all of that is, I feel shame more deeply. I know that there are thousands of other parents dealing with the same or worse and I am at a loss for understanding how they do it. I am not who I thought I was. Pretty much since the day(s) the twins were born, I’ve slid further and further into this lesser version of myself who I have nothing but contempt for. For all of my analytical ability, creativity, and practicality, I can’t fix this. My time-tested defense mechanisms of humor and writing have faltered. My shit doesn’t work and it is equally humbling and humiliating to be defeated in this way over and over and over.

The pictures on Facebook and Instagram are my best attempts at holding it together and they are sincere and real. But all of this is sincere and real, too. While I am genuinely happy in those moments, when I am low, they make me feel like a hypocrite. I don’t know if this is a cry for help or a plea for pity. I don’t feel like either of those things are happening. It’s just life, I suppose. Just the truth. I want to be truthful. Nobody takes pictures of the bad times. A very large part of me hopes that the second I press “publish”, I will feel better for having shared all of this, but I’m not so sure. I’m not sure of anything anymore. “La Isla Bonita” is playing in McDonald’s right now. Recently, they’ve been turning down the AC to the point where I get sticky, but luckily tonight is not one of those nights. But now Adam Duritz is telling me that “they (it’s always “they”) paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” I am positive that’s a metaphor but for what I don’t know. Probably late capitalism and the consumer-driven society. I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure paradise was pretty to look at but somebody really just wanted that parking lot, man.